Need inspiration for an Ajarn article? Just look back over threads in the Classroom section of Ajarn Forum! Real questions from real teachers. Results guaranteed every time. On to my article.
I've been studying the pitfalls of teaching English in Thailand ever since I arrived here some 5 years ago. There are none as far as I can see. English is a compulsory subject and the government provides a budget for foreigners to teach it. It's up to the individual to find the school that best suits them.
There are however shortfalls in studying it. Most students have to sit in a class with over 50 other students. Lessons are limited to 50 minutes. Written and verbal expression is quashed by the need to pass easy-to-mark multiple choice and gap-fill tests and exams.
Can you hold a meaningful conversation with most/all of your top scorers? Very unlikely.
Can you hold a short conversation with most/all of your top scorers? Not unless you're asking simple yes/no questions.
Do you attempt to hold any kind of conversation with your top scorers? I'll leave the answer up to you.
Why do I only mention top scorers? Because they grasp the structure of English quickly and have the best chance of one day studying overseas or making money from their ability. Better still, both.
All other students that appear on our radar can only be helped to pass tests and exams. There are simply too many students and not enough hours in the day. And that's a fact.
Here's what I've been attempting for the past 2 years.
If students don't learn to interact with their teacher and other students in English during P1 to 4 then they'll find themselves struggling to do so by the time that they enroll at a private language centre because they're preparing for university or want a better job.
I've taught English at all levels from kindergarten to adults but have concentrated on P1 to 4. It really is the make or break point. [Kindergarten is only about learning the alphabet and basic terms and early nouns].
Schedule one class per week where you allocate a simple but engaging reading, writing and colouring activity for the majority of students and then have the best either make a small group at your desk or take them outside.
Start with what they're already studying or know from the textbooks and keep it going. Use repetition by the bucket load and introduce new material that is fun to use. Don't make it seem like a typical lesson.
The results are usually quite impressive and improve as you develop. When you're comfortable with your new technique, extend it to the playground when you're taking a walk.
Happy New Year!